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How the Algerian Government Blocked the Use of VPN’s

Mohamed Aymen Bouteldja

G :02
The censorship of social media has become something usual for Algerians
during the period of the Baccalaureate exam. After the leakage of some questions in
2016, the Algerian government has resorted to blocking all social media websites for
at least six to eight hours a day.

However, the old fashioned way of blocking certain websites has not been
effective as students were made aware of the existence of VPN’s. The use of VPN’s is
arguably the easiest way to bypass the block.

This year, the Algerian government has taken other measures to insure that no
one can access any social media website even if they use a VPN.

How do VPN’s work and how can they be blocked?

When you send data it goes to your ISP (Internet Service Provider). They read
the instructions that come with the data and pass your data on to whoever you want to
send it to (Facebook.com for example)

A VPN is a middle man. When using a VPN you lock your data in an
encrypted bag with instructions on the outside saying send everything to my VPN

Your VPN server is the only one with the encryption key to read your data.
Your VPN server will now unlock your encryption bag, take the data out, and send it
to a different ISP along with the original instructions of where it should go. (Good
VPNs won't read your data when they do this.)

The key thing is that none of these bags are marked, and lots of other people
are using your VPN server. That way as soon as your encryption bag enters the VPN
server it gets mixed up with all the others and nobody knows where it came from, so
nobody can trace the data back to you.

VPN’s seem solid and safe. Nevertheless, they are not completely “unstoppable”.
There are a few ways ISP’s can use to work around VPN’s. There are at least three
known ways to block VPN’s.
1. IP blocks – When you connect to the internet with a VPN, it automatically
assigns your device a new IP address. While this IP address used isn’t
associated with your name or location, it can still get blocked. Sites do this by
comparing the IP address you are using with a list of known IP addresses used
by VPNs. If they find a match, they can block your access.
2. DPI (Deep packet inspection) – This is a more technically advanced method
of blocking VPN connections. It analyzes the encrypted data that is passed
from a VPN; checking for unique cryptography signatures. If these are
present, your access can be blocked instantly. DPI is more difficult to bypass
than other methods.

3. Port blocking – Most VPNs use specific ports to connect to the internet.
These ports can be considered as similar to tunnels or hallways. Each of these
ports has a number. All a website or service needs to do is check the traffic
coming from the port and block it. This method isn’t as common as IP
blocking, but it is easier to circumvent if you have the right VPN.